Historic first cruise to Cuba from U.S. sparks travelers’ interest,
For more than 50 years, sea-going traffic between the U.S. and Cuba has
generally flowed in only one direction: northbound.
Aboard flimsy inner tube rafts, smugglers’ boats and even a watertight
1951 Chevy pickup truck, tens of thousands of Cubans have fled the
communist-led island for Florida shores.
Now Carnival Corp. on May 1 is poised to send the first cruise ship from
the U.S. to Cuba in half a century. But well before the 704-passenger
ship Adonia leaves PortMiami, the cruise is beset by a storm of
controversy over Carnival’s decision to honor a long-standing regulation
by the Cuban government that forbids Cuban-born individuals to travel
from the U.S. to Cuba by sea.
Although Cuban-born travelers of various nationalities can fly to Cuba,
natives of the island are prohibited from arriving on boats of any kind
under regulations whose origins are unclear.
The flap – and perhaps even the regulations themselves — seem to have
taken Carnival by surprise. “Any time any set of customers are upset,
that’s a concern for us,” said chief communications officer Roger Frizzell.
Ferry operators discuss connecting Cuba with Florida ports
He said talks between the company and Cuban officials continue. And, he
said, company officials were “hopeful and optimistic we’ll find a
solution,” even before the ship shoves off.
“This is a priority for us,” Frizzell said.
In a letter Tuesday to Carnival employees, Frizzell wrote, “We have
requested a change in this regulation to allow all our guests to travel.
It is our sincere and strong hope and intention that in the future we
will be able to travel with everyone.
“We certainly understand and empathize with the emotion surrounding this
issue, as is often the case in times of change.”
The week-long cruise will take passengers – including about 40
journalists invited to document the historic voyage – to three Cuban
cities, including Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba.
The Adonia sails under Carnival Corp.’s Fathom brand, offering social
impact cruises to destinations where passengers are invited to get to
know the people by working alongside them in community development
projects. The Adonia now sails every other week to the Dominican Republic.
The social engagement in Cuba has not been determined, Carnival
For Carnival, riding high in the water after posting
better-than-expected profits of $142 million in the quarter ending Feb.
29, being the first U.S. based cruise line to sail into Cuba is a coup
in the competitive Caribbean tourism industry, where the island just 90
miles from American shores has long been off-limits.
“Last week we made history,” company president and CEO Arnold Donald
told analysts during a conference call earlier this month. He called
getting into Cuba “an important first step” for his company and for the
But the prohibition of Cuban-born passengers did not sit well with about
50 demonstrators who gathered Tuesday near Carnival Corp. headquarters
in Doral. “We have to protest that kind of policy,” Ramon Saul Sanchez
In a telephone interview, Miami immigration attorney Wilfredo Allen
said, “Carnival employs many Cuban-Americans. They are a class act.
“But they made tactical mistake in accepting those conditions. They
should have made a better deal.”
Last year Cuba reported receiving a record 3 million visitors, including
an estimated 600,000 travelers from the U.S. That number is only
expected to grow.
Source: Historic first cruise to Cuba from U.S. sparks travelers’
interest, controversy – Sun Sentinel –